As varicose veins and spider veins are both a form of venous insufficiency, the two terms are often used interchangeably. While it’s true that both are dark veins that are visible under the skin, are they actually the same condition? The short answer: no. The best vascular surgeons in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center share the differences between varicose veins and spider veins—and what to do if you’re currently experiencing either.
What are varicose veins?
Your veins have a huge, important task to keep blood circulating properly throughout your body. But the veins in your legs have an additional challenge: they must push blood upward against gravity. Over time, the vein valves in your leg can start to weaken or break down, and then blood pools into the leg and forms a varicose vein.
These veins can appear to be large, dark and swollen under the skin. Some people may also experience associated pain, heaviness, itchiness, or restlessness in the legs. Over time, varicose veins can lead to conditions like blood clots or venous ulcers. However, the great news is when caught early, treatment is generally quick, easy and effective.
What are spider veins?
Spider veins are also a form of venous insufficiency, although they do not come with the same symptoms as varicose veins. These veins are smaller, often red or purple in color, and resemble bursts of spider webs or tree branches just under the skin’s surface. While they are normally considered a cosmetic issue, it’s best to see a specialist if you’re experiencing pain with your spider veins. A problem lurking below the surface could be the cause for the spider veins, and if caught early, is always easier to treat.
What causes varicose and spider veins?
Although they look different, we often see the same risk factors for both varicose veins and spider veins. These factors include:
- Genetics. Varicose and spider veins generally run in the family. If one of your family members has developed venous insufficiency in the past, there is an increased chance that you may experience vein problems as well. Changes in lifestyle can help lower your risk.
- Obesity. Obesity puts additional pressure on your veins, causing them to break down faster than they would normally. If this is one of your concerns, talk to your doctor to formulate a plan that would be most healthy for you.
- Menopause, pregnancy, and puberty. Changes in hormones can certainly have an effect on your overall vein health. Pregnancy causes increased blood volume and puts additional pressure on the legs, both of which can cause vein problems.
- Birth control. Similar to natural hormonal changes, birth control can also impact your veins. If you’re on a form of birth control, make sure to communicate any adverse reactions to your doctor to make sure it’s not negatively affecting your venous health.
- Blood clot history. There have been previous links between blood clots and the likelihood of developing other vein problems—and varicose veins, if left untreated, may lead to blood clots.
- Sitting or standing for long periods of time. Our bodies aren’t meant to handle staying in one position for hours a day, every day. If you’re in an occupation that requires you to spend most of the day in a chair or on your feet, create some time each day to stretch your legs. This will give your circulation a much-needed boost and lessen your risk of venous insufficiency.
How can you treat varicose or spider veins?
Treating varicose or spider veins is a lot easier than you may think. For most cases, vein stripping is a thing of the past, and there are several other options available for handling symptoms or vein treatment. It’s important to remember the difference between symptom management and treating the underlying cause. Handling symptoms may offer some relief but treating the vein directly will help prevent the problem from progressing.
Small lifestyle changes can be one of the best ways to manage symptoms and lower your overall risk of developing venous insufficiency. Taking 30 minutes out of your day to go for a brisk walk may help alleviate vein valve issues, or take advantage of swimming as a low-impact activity. If you’re often sitting or standing most of your day, take a few minutes every hour to move around and stretch your legs. And remember to drink plenty of water!
If you’re currently dealing with painful varicose vein symptoms, compression stockings may give you some needed symptomatic relief. These stockings strategically place pressure on the leg to give your veins the little boost they need to circulate blood through the leg. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so compression stockings are offered in varying levels of pressure to fit your needs. A vein specialist can help you find the compression stockings that would be best for your veins.
Finally, treatment can get rid of varicose or spider veins without using invasive surgery. For example, endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) treats varicose veins by delivering thermal energy to the unhealthy vein, which causes it to collapse and seal shut. For spider veins, sclerotherapy may be ideal. This treatment inserts a sclerosing agent, polidocanol, into the vein, which irritates the vein and lessens its appearance.
At the end of the day, a vein specialist will be your best source of information for the current state of your vein health and the most effective treatment options. If you’re currently dealing with varicose or spider veins, visit the best vascular surgeons in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center. We’ll assess your vein health and create a treatment plan that will be best for you. Schedule a consultation today by calling 407-545-3385 or 352-658-5547.